Friday, September 30, 2016

Films That I Saw: September 2016

The heat is starting to come down and cold will emerge hopefully as it’s time for the real film-going season to begin. Especially as I hope to end what has become a four-month drought of going to the movie theaters due to all sorts of things. In the meantime, I’m trying to stay away from the chaos that is the Presidential election as I wasn’t entirely surprised at how disastrous the first debate was as I really hope something good will happen. Yet, this has not been a very good year at all as more celebrity deaths happen as the likes of Arnold Palmer, Jose Fernandez, and many others are now gone. Lately, I’ve been distracting myself with watching shows from the Disney Channel like Bunk’d, Jessie, and Austin & Ally just for light entertainment as well as wrestling company such as Lucha Underground and Ring of Honor while starting to lament on what could be the final days of TNA just as they had finally hit some pay dirt thanks in part to the Broken Hardyz.

Then there’s WWE where even though it’s been nearly 2 years since I watched it regularly as I haven’t seen any of their programming in more than a year. Yet, I have been reading Cageside as it is clear that the company is really unsure what to do ever since they brought back the brand split. I have however, become amused over the state of what Monday Night RAW has become as some are calling it RAW is Snore as they’re doing the same old shit over and over again. Yet, Smackdown Live! has managed to create its own identity and are doing well where they actually tell stories and use most of its roster and give them something meaningful. Sure, there’s a few flaws in the show but at least they got something of interest. Then there’s CM Punk whose UFC debut was pretty bad. I wasn’t surprised that he lost but I was more surprised at how bad he got his ass kicked. It was disheartening to watch knowing how much work he had to put into his debut and it wasn’t good enough. I’m still going to support him no matter what as he at least had the guts to get inside the octagon and take a beating.

In the month of September, I saw a total of 31 films 19 first-timers and 12 re-watches as I decided to take things slow this time around. Largely as I just didn’t want to overwhelm myself and watch movies every day. The big highlight of the month was my Blind Spot assignment in Come and See. Here are the Top 10 First Timers of September 2016:

1. Santa Sangre

2. Brooklyn

3. Speedy

4. Steamboat Bill Jr.

5. My Mutant Brain

6. Elvis

7. Major Dundee

8. Dark Star

9. Midnight Movies: From the Margin to the Mainstream

10. Fando y Lis

Monthly Mini-Reviews

Four Days in October

One of five 30 for 30 episodes that I watched this month began with the story about the 2004 American League Championship and the four days in which the Boston Red Sox made their comeback being down three games to nothing against the dreaded New York Yankees. Told by the players, it showcases what was going on and the atmosphere of those four games that would eventually have the Red Sox not just win the American League Championship but also break the legendary Curse of the Bambino and win the World Series.

Coney Island

A film from Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle that also stars Buster Keaton is a delightful silent comedy short about what happens when two different men go to Coney Island. Arbuckle trying to get another woman despite being married while Keaton just wanders around and causes all sorts of shit. It’s pretty funny as they use the locations in the Coney Island fairgrounds as it is something fans of Keaton and Arbuckle would enjoy though it’s minor work from Keaton.

Little Big Men

One of the great underdog stories about how this small team from Kirkland, Washington would make it to the finals of the 1982 Little League World Series against the heavily-favored Taiwan and beat them to win the series. Featuring many interviews with the players, it showcases what these kids would do but also how fame came into the forefront of its pitcher who became very uncomfortable with the attention he received. It’s a fascinating story about a little team that brought some hope to the country during the early 1980s.

Trojan War

In the 2000s, there was no team that was considered the best than the USC Trojans under the coaching of Pete Carroll who brought its football program back to prominence. With a groundswell of support from Hollywood and players being treated like celebrities, it is a classic rise and fall tale of a team that rose high only to be crippled by scandal. Stories about college football definitely showcase something that feels pure about the game yet there is always something dark that lurks around as it’s often due to the fact that these young players are given the chance to do something meaningful only to get shit on because of money or some sort of bullshit.

Run Ricky Run

Ricky Williams is unquestionably one of the great players in football yet was unfairly ridiculed for some of the decisions he made as it relates to his decision to quit playing football in 2004 for a one-year retirement. Some of it is due to his desire to smoke marijuana as well as some form of self-fulfillment. Yet, it’s a story told with a sense of redemption where Williams wouldn’t just conquer some of his demons but also get his life in order as well as enjoy playing football.

Small Potatoes: Who Killed the USFL?

This is truly one of the best of the 30 for 30 series as it talks about the short-lived United States Football League that was this alternative of the NFL that played its games during the spring and summer during the early 1980s. It was a league that gave players who never made it to the NFL a chance to play as it made stars out of guys like Herschell Walker, Steve Young, and Jim Kelly. Yet, it never had a chance to grow all because of some rich asshole who decided to challenge the NFL and their power only to succeed in calling them a monopoly but the USFL only got a dollar from that suit. It’s that asshole who is currently running for the U.S. presidency.

Top 10 Re-Watches:

1. Lost in Translation


3. Playtime

4. Blazing Saddles

5. Dr. No

6. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

7. Young Frankenstein

8. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

9. Steve Jobs

10. The Kid Stays in the Picture

Well that is it for September as another highlight of the month was the Kraftwerk concert I attended earlier this month. I’m not sure what I’ll see in theaters as I hope to see Voyage of Time if it’s playing in Atlanta. Yet, my main focus for October will be horror and suspense films that include some films of John Carpenter as well as a Blind Spot. Until then, this is thevoid99 signing off…

© thevoid99 2016

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Elvis (1979 TV Film)

Directed by John Carpenter and written by Anthony Lawrence, Elvis is a made-for-TV movie about the life and career of Elvis Presley from his early beginnings to the aftermath of his comeback in the late 1960 and early 1970s. Told in a stylistic fashion, the TV movie explores the turbulent and raucous life of the King of Rock N’ Roll as he tries to deal with many ups and downs as he is played by Kurt Russell. Also starring Shelley Winters, Season Hubley, Bing Russell, and Pat Hingle. Elvis is a towering and mesmerizing TV movie by John Carpenter.

The life of Elvis Aaron Presley is one of the most unique in the history of the world as he was the man that brought a new sound to the post-war era of the 20th Century and became the King of Rock N’ Roll through many hit songs that are timeless. The TV movie is a typical story of Elvis Presley’s life as it’s told in a straightforward fashion though it begins in 1970 where Presley is about to mount his big comeback concert at the International Hotel in Las Vegas where he would reflect on his life and the journey he took from obscurity to being a troubled icon. The teleplay by Anthony Lawrence does take some dramatic liberties in aspects on Presley’s life yet it’s main focus is on Presley and the need to find balance in his success but also wanting to remain humble. There is a structure to the script where it’s first act is about Presley’s childhood and the need to help out his parents anyway he can but also wanting to become a singer.

The second act is about his meteoric rise but also tragedy when he deals with the death of his mother Gladys (Shelley Winters) around the time he would serve in the U.S. Army and later meet Priscilla (Season Hubley) who would become his wife in 1967. The third act is about the birth of their daughter Lisa Marie Presley but also Presley’s struggle with fame and fulfillment that would culminate with his comeback at the International Hotel. Yet, it all plays into Presley and his need to entertain and have his friends be along for the ride but also wanting to make his parents proud. Presley also talks to his stillborn twin brother Jesse as it adds to that lack of fulfillment and guidance that Presley craves for where he would also cope with the chaos of his fame that would eventually affect his marriage to Priscilla.

John Carpenter’s direction is largely straightforward which isn’t a complete surprise considering that it’s a sprawling TV movie with a near three-hour running time (in its Blu-Ray release). Still, Carpenter does manage to create something that is very engaging as it plays into the rise of this young man born at Tupelo, Mississippi who would later live in Memphis, Tennessee with his family. Shot largely in Los Angeles with some of it shot in Tennessee and some second unit shots of Las Vegas. Carpenter does manage to create something that play into a period of time where Presley is trying to maintain that sense of humbleness as he is devoted to family and his roots. With the usage of wide and medium shots for the locations as well as some close-ups to maintain some of the intimacy. Carpenter does create some compositions that are beautiful and lively where he allows the simplicity of these images to really say a lot without the need to be overly stylish. Overall, Carpenter creates an entertaining yet compelling film about the life of Elvis Presley.

Cinematographer Donald M. Morgan does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography from the usage of shadows and lights for some of the interiors to the beautiful usage of natural colors for many of its exterior scenes in the daytime. Editors Christopher Holmes and Ron Moler do nice work with the editing as it‘s mostly straightforward with a few stylish dissolves as well as fade-outs that is common with most TV movies. Art directors Tracy Bousman and James William Newport, with set decorator Bill Harp, do fantastic work with the look of the homes that Presley lived throughout his life as well as the look of some of the venues he would play at. Costume designers Suzanne Grace and Richard Mahoney do brilliant work with the costumes to play into the period of the times as well as the evolution of the clothes that Presley would wear as a performer.

Hair stylist Ruby Ford and makeup artist Marvin G. Westmore do terrific work with the look of the hairstyles that play into the way Presley looked throughout the years as well as the hairstyles that Priscilla would have in those years. Sound mixer Willie D. Burton does superb work with the way the music is presented as well as other sounds to play into Presley‘s lifestyle away from the world of performing. The film’s music by Joe Renzetti is wonderful as it’s mostly low-key in its orchestral setting to play into the dramatic elements of the film while most of it features a lot of the music of the times including songs performed by Elvis and country singer Ronnie McDowell as the live singing voice of Presley.

The casting by Joyce Selznick is great as it feature some notable small roles from Meg Wylie as Elvis’ fraternal grandmother, Felicia Fenske as Lisa Marie Presley, Abi Young as actress Natalie Wood, Joe Mantegna as Memphis Mafia member Joe Esposito, Dennis Christopher as film actor Nick Adams, Les Lannom as Sonny West of the Memphis Mafia, Peter Hobbs as Jim Denny of the Memphis Mafia, Randy Gray as the young Elvis, Elliott Street as Elvis’ bassist Billy Black, James Canning as Elvis’ guitarist Scotty Moore, Melody Anderson as Elvis’ first girlfriend Bonnie, and Ellen Travolta as Marion Keisker as the person who would record Elvis’ first songs. Charlie Cyphers is terrific as Sun Records founder Sam Phillips who would discover Elvis and give him his first break while Pat Hingle is superb as Elvis’ manager Col. Tom Parker who would make Elvis into a megastar as well as handle some of Elvis’ business.

Robert Gray is fantastic as Elvis’ friend Red West who would be part of the Memphis Mafia that would protect and hang around with Elvis as makes sure Elvis have a good time and keep him grounded. Bing Russell is excellent as Elvis’ father Vernon who does whatever he can to help Elvis following the death of his wife as well as watch over some of his son’s finances. Shelley Winters is amazing as Elvis’ mother Gladys as this woman who adores her son and strives for him to succeed while being overwhelmed by all of his success as she helps try to ground him from not having fame get over his head. Season Hubley is brilliant as Priscilla as Elvis’ wife whom he met in Germany when she was 14 as she would be the love of his life while later coping with living in a world that she has very little control of. Finally, there’s Kurt Russell in a phenomenal performance as the titular character who does whatever he can to succeed and help out his parents while dealing with all sorts of trials and tribulations where Russell displays a charm and humility that brings the man back to life as it’s one of Russell’s defining performances.

Elvis is a sensational TV film from John Carpenter that features an incredible performance from Kurt Russell as the titular character. It’s a TV movie that doesn’t just tell a fascinating story about the King of Rock N’ Roll but also manages to be a bio-pic that does a lot in creating a story that is engaging though still manage to be conventional. In the end, Elvis is a remarkable TV film from John Carpenter.

John Carpenter Films: Dark Star - Assault on Precinct 13 - Halloween - Someone’s Watching Me! - The Fog - Escape from New York - The Thing - Christine - Starman - Big Trouble in Little China - Prince of Darkness - They Live - Memoirs of an Invisible Man - Body Bags - In the Mouth of Madness - Village of the Damned - Escape from L.A. - Vampires - Ghosts of Mars - The Ward

The Auteurs #60: John Carpenter Part 1 - Part 2

© thevoid99 2016

Monday, September 26, 2016

Dark Star

Directed and scored by John Carpenter and written by Carpenter and Dan O’Bannon, Dark Star is the story of four astronauts going on a space mission in the 22nd Century where they’re tasked to destroy unstable planets while dealing with an alien on the run. The film is an offbeat sci-fi comedy that play into the ideas of space exploration as well as the attempts to try and create a new world in outer space. Starring Dan O’Bannon, Brian Narelle, Cal Kuniholm, and Dre Pahich. Dark Star is a witty and whimsical film from John Carpenter.

Set in the middle of the 22nd Century during a twenty-mission year mission to destroy unstable planets around the galaxy, the film revolves around four astronauts who are part of a mission where they live and work inside a spaceship that is already falling apart as its captain had died during a mission where they’re dealing with a malfunction and other things in the ship. Among them is an alien they’ve captured and bombs with artificial intelligence as it play into an environment that is stifling and tedious that later becomes unruly. The film’s screenplay by John Carpenter and Dan O’Bannon, as the latter plays the role of ship bombadier Sgt. Pinback, explores not just that sense of boredom in doing a duty that goes on for 20 years but also a sense of discord between four men who have to work together but really can’t stand each other. One of which in the target specialist Talby (Dre Pahich, with the voice of John Carpenter) often sits inside an observation dome just to gaze into the universe.

With the mission led by Lt. Doolittle (Brian Narelle) as he, Sgt. Pinback, and navigator Corporal Boiler (Cal Kuniholm) are often in the ship dropping bombs on unstable planets to prevent it from future colonization. Whenever they’re not working, they do things to contend their boredom as Boiler would shoot at things while Doolittle would converse with Talby as he’s the only person that he can have a friendly chat with. Sgt. Pinback would have a moment in the story as he is tasked to feed an alien as it lead to trouble but also more problems for the already fragile spaceship as it’s dealing with all sorts of malfunctions. Especially as the third act is about an attempt to fix this malfunction where all hell breaks loose.

Carpenter’s direction is definitely stylish where it isn’t afraid to play into its low-budget aesthetics for the fact that the film is almost set entirely inside the spaceship. The sense of intimacy would play into that air of claustrophobia in the scenes where three of the four men are manning the control boards where Carpenter would use some medium shots and some extreme close-ups to play into that cramped space. It adds to some of the drama and humor that is prevalent into the film as well as this very funny sequence where Sgt. Pinback tries to go after this alien which is a beach ball with feet as it’s Carpenter showing what he had to use with the low budget he has to work with. There are moments where Carpenter would play into air of suspense as well as infuse it with bits of dark humor. Also serving as the film’s music composer, Carpenter provides an eerie yet effective electronic-based score created by synthesizers to play into some of the darker elements of the film as well as provide some offbeat music such as a country song the crew would sometimes listen to. The third act as it relates to malfunctioning section of the ship and a bomb about to detonate where the crew is trying to sort everything but also comprehend everything they’ve been doing. Overall, Carpenter creates a gripping yet offbeat film about a space crew dealing with the chaos inside of their fragile spaceship.

Cinematographer Douglas Knapp does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography as it is shot with grainy film stock while using some unique lighting for the look of the different rooms. Editor/production designer/visual effects supervisor Dan O’Bannon does incredible work with the many contributions with the film from the stylized yet offbeat approach to the editing with its rhythmic cuts to the look of the many interiors in the spaceship and its rooms as well as the look of the universe and its low-budget effects which are quite imaginative. The sound work of Nina Kleinberg is fantastic as it has some cool sound effects in the way the spaceship sounds as well as some of the objects in and around the spaceship.

The film’s superb cast include some notable small roles from Nick Castle as the voice of the alien, Alan Sheretz and Adam Beckenbaugh as the voices of the bombs, Cookie Knapp as the voice of the ship’s computer, Mile Watkins as the mission control commander, and Joe Saunders as the ship’s original commander in the mysterious Commander Powell. Dre Pahich is terrific as the target specialist Talby who has become fascinated by the universe as he prefers to stay away from everyone with only Lt. Doolittle as his only friend with John Carpenter doing the dubbing for Talby’s voice. Cal Kuniholm is excellent as the navigator Cpl. Boiler as he is this weird guy that is more concerned with shooting lasers at things and trimming his beard rather than do his duty. Brian Narelle is brilliant as Lt. Doolittle as the ship’s second-in-command who tries to maintain order while lamenting about wanting to return home and go back to his life as a surfer. Finally, there’s Dan O’Bannon in an amazing performance as Sgt. Pinback as this weird bombadier that gets himself into trouble with an alien while having a nice back story about how he became part of this crew.

Dark Star is a marvelous film from John Carpenter. Featuring an excellent cast, dazzling visuals, and some inventive special effects that isn’t afraid to play up its low-budget aesthetics. It’s a sci-fi film that plays into the ideas of space exploration and travel as well as some of its downside in a humorous way. In the end, Dark Star is a remarkable film from John Carpenter.

John Carpenter Films: Assault on Precinct 13 - Halloween - Someone’s Watching Me! - Elvis - The Fog - Escape from New York - The Thing - Christine - Starman - Big Trouble in Little China - Prince of Darkness - They Live - Memoirs of an Invisible Man - Body Bags - In the Mouth of Madness - Village of the Damned (1995 film) - Escape from L.A. - Vampires - Ghosts of Mars - The Ward

The Auteurs #60: John Carpenter Part 1 - Part 2

© thevoid99 2016

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Auteurs #59: Alejandro Jodorowsky

Despite not having attained some form of mainstream success, Alejandro Jodorowsky is someone that doesn’t need mainstream success or attention as he has become a cherished cult figure in the world of art, literature, and cinema. Making films that never play by the rules while bringing in elements of mysticism and philosophy into his work that made him stand out from others who also dabbled in surrealism. Even though his films were considered too strange for mainstream audiences, those willing to seek out his work would often find something that was unique as some believed they were also challenging. It’s something Jodorowsky is known for not just as an artist but also as a man.

Born on February 17, 1929 in the coastal town of Tocopilla, Chile, Alejandro Jodorowsky Prullansky was the son of Jewish-Ukrainian immigrants living in the town where his father Jaime Jodorowsky Groismann was a merchant and his mother Sara Felicidad Prullansky Arcavi worked at the shop as he would endure a very unhappy childhood filled with abuse and lack of love as he also had an older sister who also treated him badly. In Tocopilla, Jodorowsky also endured a sense of loneliness as he was disliked by the locals because of Jewish-Ukrainian background while he also had a disdain towards the American mining industry who he felt treated the Chileans unfairly. At the age of 9, he and his family moved to Santiago where it was through books where Jodorowsky found an escape from his tumultuous family life.

Growing into his teens where he was interested in poetry and literature, Jodorowsky also discovered the ideas of anarchism as it was something he gravitated to as it relates to his disdain of American imperialism and the ideas of his family. After a two-year period in college studying philosophy and psychology, Jodorowsky became interested in the world of theatre and mime as he left to join the circus where he briefly worked as a clown. At the age of 18 in 1947, Jodorowsky formed a theatre troupe where he wrote his first play as he had some minimal success in Chile. Yet, he realized there was nothing for him in his home country where he moved to Paris in 1952 to study mime from Etienne Decroux as he became part of her troupe. After a few years working as a mime with the famed Marcel Marceau, Jodorowsky returned to theatres where he began to stage numerous plays as he was starting to become interested in the world of film.

La Cravate/Teatro sin fin

In 1957, Jodorowsky decided to take a hand in filmmaking as he decided to adapt Thomas Mann’s novella The Severed Heads into a short film. Despite his inexperience in the world of film, Jodorowsky decided that the story would be told in pantomime as much of the story would be told just through performance and music. The twenty-minute short would have Jodorowsky in the lead role as he used whatever resources he had as well as friends he made in Paris to help him with the film as he would unveil it in 1957. Jean Cocteau would be among those who saw the short and praised it where he would later write an introduction for the short. Then some years after its release, the short was then believed to be lost until it was rediscovered in 2006. In 1960, Jodorowsky moved to Mexico City to settle while often returning to France where he would spend some time with the surreal artist Andre Breton as it would be an unsatisfying meeting for Jodorowsky.

His time with Breton would force Jodorowsky to create a movement with the Spanish writer Fernando Arrabal and the French artist Roland Topor that would put the ideas of surrealism away from the mainstream and embrace absurdity into its approach. The Panic Movement was considered groundbreaking where the men revealed a lot of what they were doing as Jodorowsky eventually filmed these presentations for a documentary short in 1965. The short revealed the movement’s take on surrealism and their refusal to take it seriously as it was seen by various surrealist groups as it was considered a major feat that brought surrealism back into the underground. The movement would also give Jodorowsky the chance to work on other things such as books, plays, and comic strips all playing into his desire to play into the world of surrealism.

Fando y Lis

Through his friendship with Fernando Arrabal, the two decided to write a film version of Arrabal’s play about two lovers traveling through a barren wasteland in a post-apocalyptic world in order to find a legendary land that can bring them hope. The two would create a loose version of the script as Jodorowsky wanted to infuse more elements of surrealism as well as critique some of the aspects of faith which was considered quite daring in a country such as Mexico. Despite Jodorowksy’s inexperience with filmmaking, he and Arrabal were able to get funding as well as call on friends such as Sergio Klainer and Diana Mariscal to play the lead roles with others including his then-wife Valerie playing small parts.

The shooting was largely set in the Mexican deserts as well as in rural places where Jodorowsky shot the film on weekends for several months with the aid of cinematographers Rafael Corkidi and Antonio Reynoso with the former playing one of the protagonist’s father. Jodorowsky wanted to play up that air of realism and surrealism into the story as well as have Mariscal do much of the film without walking as her character is partially-paralyzed. Having been aware that surrealism had become more bourgeois in recent years, Jodorowsky would maintain that absurdity into the film as he would put odd things such as mud people, old ladies playing cards and feeding a young man peaches, drag queens, and other strange things to really push the boundaries of what can be seen in film.

The film made its premiere at the 1968 Acapulco Film Festival where the screening was notorious for what was shown as it led to a riot which was becoming very common during one of the tumultuous years in Mexico. The film was later banned from the country for several years yet the film was seen at other festivals where the famed Polish filmmaker Roman Polanski praised the film and defended its contents. The film would also play in film festivals in the U.S. in 1970 as it received good reviews but was unfavorably compared to the American release of Federico Fellini’s Satyricon.

El Topo

Shortly before the completion of Fando y Lis, Jodorowsky met Ejo Takata who was a Zen Buddhist monk where Jodorowky would have a spiritual awakening during his meetings with Takata. It was around that time Jodorowsky met the renowned surrealist Leonara Carrington as these meetings would give Jodorowsky ideas for his second film as it would be about a Mexican bandit who travels to the desert to find spiritual enlightenment in a desolate world. Aware of the popularity of the western at the time, Jodorowsky wanted to create a more surreal take on the genre as he would star in the film as the titular character as well as do the score, create the sets and costumes for the film while having his own son Brontis play the titular character’s son.

With the aid of Rafael Corkidi in the cinematography, Jodorowsky would shoot the film in the deserts of Mexico though has no plans to have the film be shown there as he was considered persona non grata. The film would play with the conventions of the genre while displaying many things that were considered very strange to play into the development of the titular character’s violent journey for enlightenment. In the film’s first half, the character would see himself as a god but then would be brought back down to earth for its second half where it becomes a story of redemption and resurrection. All of it playing into Jodorowsky’s own spiritual experiences during his time in the Panic Movement as well as taking part of the drugs of the counterculture which was common during the time.

Despite being submitted as Mexico’s nominee for the Best Foreign Film category at the Academy Awards, the film wasn’t nominated nor, true to Jodorowsky’s word, did it play in Mexico following its 1970 premiere in various film festivals. Despite not getting any kind of distribution, the film was played at a private screening at the Museum of Modern Arts in New York City in late 1970 where Ben Barenholtz was at the screening and had it played in his movie theatre the Elgin in December of 1970 for a one-week run as a midnight screening. The result would be a major event as the film gained a cult following where the film played at the Elgin theatre for six months making lots of money and paving the way for the midnight movie phenomenon. After it had been seen by many including John Lennon and Yoko Ono who would befriend Jodorowsky, the two introduced Jodorowsky to Lennon’s then-manager Allen Klein who would buy the rights of the film and give it a proper release which didn’t do well financially in comparison to its run as a midnight movie.

The Holy Mountain

The cult success of El Topo was a big deal for Jodorowsky as even though it wasn’t played like a lot of films at the time. It was still considered a success as Jodorowsky was grateful for John Lennon’s endorsement that led to a meeting with Allen Klein who would give Jodorowsky a million dollars for his next film that included additional support from Lennon, George Harrison, and Lennon’s wife Yoko Ono. Inspired by the books Ascent of Mount Carmel by John of the Cross and Mount Analogue by Rene Daumal, the film would be about a group of people who join this strange man for a spiritual journey inside a strange mountain. With Jodorowsky playing the role of the alchemist as well as design the sets and costumes, co-edit, and do some of the music score, the film would feature a cast of unknowns for the film.

Once again teaming with up with cinematographer Rafael Corkidi for the production which was shot in Mexico, Jodorowsky wanted to get his cast and crew on a spiritual retreat before principal photography began as they would study many different ideas of spirituality while Jodorowsky was instructed by Arica School co-founder Oscar Ichazo to take LSD during the production. There was a sense of the unknown during the shoot yet Jodorowsky maintained a sense of control to create something that was indeed out there. Even as Jodorowsky wanted to break all kinds of rules for the film as he also obtained the services of classical musician Ronald Frangipane and jazz musician Don Cherry for the score.

The film made its premiere at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival that May where it was well-received as it led to a limited theatrical release in the U.S. in November of 1973. Though its initial theatrical run wasn’t successful, it was until the film was billed with El Topo as part of a midnight double-feature screening where the film was successful. The success was short-lived as Jodorowsky had a falling out with Allen Klein over Jodorowsky’s refusal to helm an adaptation of Pauline Reage’s Story of O. due to Jodorowsky’s support on feminism. Klein, who was known for being quite brutal with his business tactics, retaliated by having all of Jodorowsky’s feature films at that point be withheld and not shown to the public for nearly 30 years as it would become a source of bitterness for Jodorowsky.

Attempted Production of Dune

Following the falling out with Allen Klein while attaining some measure of success through the world of underground cinema. Jodorowsky did at least gain some clout to get various film producers and others in the industry in wanting to work with him. Having heard about Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel about a conflict between families over a mysterious melange which is the most precious commodity of the universe. Jodorowsky was interested in making Herbert’s story into a film as he heard that a French consortium led by Jean-Paul Gibon who had the rights to make it into a film. Jodorowsky met with French film producer Michel Seydoux, who had seen and liked Jodorowsky’s films, as the two decided to create a feature film version of Herbert’s novel. Though Jodorowsky hadn’t read Herbert’s novel, he was still interested in making into a feature film that would be like a spiritual experience similar to what hippies did with psychedelics but without the drugs.

The project was to feature visual effects work and designs by different artists such as Jean “Mobeius” Girard, Chris Foss, H.R. Giger, and Dan O’Bannon while the casting was to include Jodorowsky’s son Brontis as the lead role of Paul Atrides. The casting was to be even more extravagant as it would include the famed surrealist Salvador Dali, model Amanda Lear, Mick Jagger, David Carradine, and Orson Welles where Jodorowsky made them offers that were considered ridiculous. The ideas that Jodorowsky had were even crazier as he talked to the British rock band Pink Floyd and the French art-rock band Magma to do the music. By early 1976, $2 million of the production’s $9.5 million budget had been spent for its pre-production as Frank Herbert read Jodorowsky’s script which Herbert described as nearly the size of a phonebook for a film that was to be 14-hours long. While Jodorowsky admitted to taking some liberties with Herbert’s novel, Herbert did at least like what Jodorowsky was doing.

Just as a lot of things were about to come into play, the project was then halted as major studios in Hollywood who were interested initially on the film only to realize the grand scale of what Jodorowsky wanted. With Jodorowsky and Seydoux wanting more money to get their ideas going, the project eventually folded in the late 1976 marking an end what some believed to be the masterpiece Jodorowsky never made. In 2013, a documentary about the aborted production was released with new interviews from Jodorowsky, Seydoux, and Chris Foss as well as filmmakers Richard Stanley and Nicolas Winding Refn was released to great acclaim. The film showcased what could’ve been as Jodorowsky admitted to be heartbroken by the projects collapse as the rights was eventually purchased by Italian film producer Dino de Laurentiis who would eventually make the film that was directed by David Lynch for a 1984 release that received negative reviews as well as being a commercial disappointment.


Ravaged by the collapse of Dune, Jodorowsky was desperate for work as he was approached by the French production Gaumont to create a film version of Reginald Campbell’s children’s novel Poo Lorn L’Elephant. Jodorowsky said yes as it would be a very different project from previous films though the story about the spiritual connection between a young woman and an Indian elephant who were both born on the same day did play into Jodorowsky’s fascination with spirituality. Having teamed with Jeffrey O’Kelly and Nicholas Niciphor to help write a draft with Niciphor eventually writing the final script, the film was finally going to be made with a $1.5 million budget as Jodorowsky would work with an entirely French crew and cast as well as actors in India where the film was set. Despite not having to work with some of his previous collaborators, Jodorowsky would finally begin production in 1979.

The production would be troubling as Jodorowsky found himself fighting with producers and executives at Gaumont over the film’s visuals which would display little of Jodorowsky’s visual trademarks. Jodorowsky also struggled with the material as many of his past films were very sympathetic to characters who didn’t play by the rules of conventional society nor were part of it as he found himself unhappy with making a film where the characters were nearly normal. The shooting was unpleasant but it was in post-production where things became tense where Jodorowsky wanted to make the film shorter but the people at Gaumont won as the film would have a running time of nearly two hours.

The film was released in 1980 as it was not well-received nor did it get a wide release as the film would later be lost for many years except through poor-quality bootlegs as it is considered a rarity to be found on the Internet. Jodorowsky would disown the film as he was unhappy about his experience in making the film while still reeling from the collapse of Dune. Two years after the film’s release, Jodorowsky’s personal life was in dire straits as he divorced his longtime wife Valerie. For much of the 1980s, Jodorowsky would write novels and comics to keep himself financially stable while collaborating with artist Mobeius for the cult graphic novel The Incal.

Santa Sangre

After taking some time to recover from the unhappy experience of making Tusk and devoting himself to his work in comics as well as raise his children that included sons Brontis, Cristobal, Teo, and Adan as well as daughter Eugenia. It was around this time for much of the 1980s as Jodorowsky began to write a new film project that would be a slasher of film sorts that revolved around a young man, who would see his mother lose her arms following a fight with her adulterous husband, who becomes a serial killer targeting those who are threat to his mother under the command of his own mother. The idea itself was intriguing but given that Jodorowsky didn’t have much clout following the failure to get his version of Dune off the ground. Yet, Jodorowsky still had friends in the industry that included the Italian horror filmmaker Dario Argento who would give Jodorowsky’s script to his brother Claudio. Claudio Argento decided to produce the film as well as help polish the script with another Italian filmmaker in Roberto Leoni.

With Argento getting the money needed for the film, Jodorowsky decided to have the film be shot in and around Mexico City while sons Adan and Cristobal would play the lead role of Fenix with Adan as the young version of Fenix and Cristobal as the older version. With small roles given to Teo and Brontis as well as roles from Blanca Guerra and Guy Stockwell as Fenix’s parents, shooting began in mid-1988 with Jodorowsky getting Italian cinematographer Daniele Nannuzzi to shoot the film. The production didn’t just play into the idea of repressed memories and childhood trauma but also a man trying to cope with his demons as well as the presence of his mother who tries to prevent him from having a normal life. Jodorowsky also wanted to comment on the fallacy of faith as it relates to the strange beliefs of Fenix’s mother as she claims that the saint she worships is real until a Vatican official disproves those claims.

The film made its premiere in May of 1989 at the Cannes Film Festival where it played at the Un Certain Regarde section as it was well-received by audiences and critics. Following a release in Italy in November of that year as well as a very limited U.S. release, the film did initially receive mixed reviews in the U.S. yet received a glowing praise from renowned film critic Roger Ebert who had also enjoyed El Topo and The Holy Mountain. Ebert’s review would help the film achieve not just cult status in the intervening years but also with a new generation of critics who praised the film. While Jodorowsky was grateful toward Ebert’s praise, the film didn’t do well commercially due to its limited release though it did put Jodorowsky back in the spotlight no matter how brief it would be.

The Rainbow Thief

With the buzz he attained for Santa Sangre, Jodorowsky was approached by the famed producer Alexander Salkind about helming a film his wife Berta Dominguez D. wrote about an eccentric heir to a massive fortune who befriends a thief as they live underground in the sewers where they await word for the heir to receive his fortune and the thief to get a nice payday in return. Though the story didn’t appeal Jodorowsky in lieu with the rest of his body of work, Salkind revealed that the film would star Peter O’Toole and Omar Sharif as Jodorowsky said yes to the project in a chance to work with the two acting legends. With Salkind funding and controlling the project as it would be shot in Gdansk, Poland, the film would be Jodorowsky’s most commercially-viable project to date.

Once shooting began in 1989, Jodorowsky received word from Salkind and producer Vincent Winter to not change a word of the script and do everything that is asked or he will be fired. Despite having a nice time working with O’Toole and Sharif as well as getting Christopher Lee for a small role, Jodorowsky became unhappy with making the film as he had no input in what to do or say visually. Jodorowsky’s attempt to create humor or anything whimsical would feel forced and uninspired as he would often squabble with Winter over the visuals and to create something unconventional as Jodorowsky often lost the arguments.

The film made its premiere in May of 1990 in London as it disappeared quickly from theaters with an indifferent response from audiences and critics. The film would later premiere in France in 1994 as it remains unreleased in American cinemas. The film was considered a low point for Jodorowsky as he would disown the film as he would also make some serious changes in his life where he moved his family to France in 1990 and devote himself towards making comics, novels, and speaking engagements devoted to his work and interests in the world of tarot cards. In 1995, tragedy struck when Jodorowsky’s son Teo was killed in an accident around the time Jodorowsky was to go to Mexico City for a lecture as well as meet Ejo Takata for the first time in years as it would be the last time they saw each other as Takata died two years later.

Attempted Productions of The Sons of El Topo and King Shot

In 2000 as Jodorowsky had attained a cult profile through comics and films, the director attended the Chicago Underground Film Festival that year where he was given a lifetime achievement award for his body of work. The festival also held screenings for El Topo and The Holy Mountain despite Allen Klein’s refusal to have the films be screened publicly. Nevertheless, the screening would draw great attention as well as the demand for Jodorowsky’s films to be available to the public as a new generation of film goers emerged wanting to see those films. In 2004, Jodorowsky and Klein settled their differences where a DVD box set of Jodorowsky’s first three films including the re-discovered La Cravate were released three years later to great acclaim. It was around this time Jodorowsky was trying to get a couple of projects off the ground as one of them was a sequel to El Topo. Often titled The Sons of El Topo or Abelcain, the film would be a sequel revolving around the two different sons of the titular character.

The project had begun around the mid-1990s with Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Arau, who had been in the film in a small role, trying to help Jodorowsky raise funds as it languished through the 2000s with shock-rocker Marilyn Manson and film star Johnny Depp expressing interests in appearing the film. Another project that Jodorowsky wanted to create was a metaphysical gangster film called King Shot as it was another film Depp and Manson expressed interest in as well as Nick Nolte. David Lynch offered to produce the film as he and Jodorowsky had become friends despite their own experiences with Dune. The film was to be set in a post-apocalyptic world with a casino in the middle of the desert shaped like the head of Jesus Christ while Manson would play a 300-year old pope. By the late 2000s, chances to raise money faltered as both projects eventually fell apart though The Sons of El Topo has often returned into discussion as Jodorowsky still plans to make the film. Nevertheless, Jodorowsky still maintained some interest in the film world where the New York City Museum of Arts and Design held a retrospective of his work in 2010 where Jodorowsky also gave lectures on art.

The Dance of Reality

In 2001, Jodorowsky released an autobiographical novel of sorts that was about his life as a child living in Tocopilla, Chile as it was a chance to make peace with his troubled childhood as well as to humanize his own father whom he admitted to having an unpleasant relationship with. While being interviewed for Frank Pavich’s documentary on the attempted production of Dune, Jodorowsky reunited with producer Michel Seydoux in the film where the two discussed plans to work together again. Jodorowsky had expressed interest in making a film based on his book where he returned to his hometown of Tocopilla where he received permission and some funding to have his film shot there. With Seydoux also raising funds, the plans to make the film about Jodorowsky’s childhood was starting to happen. With Jodorowsky appearing in the film as himself, the role of his father went to his eldest son Brontis while Cristobal and Adan would play small roles as the latter would also provide the film’s score.

Jodorowsky’s wife in artist Pascale Montadon would do the costumes as the rest of the cast would include Pamela Flores as Jodorowsky’s mother and Jeremias Herskovits as the young Alejandro. Jodorowsky got the services of cinematographer Jean-Marie Drejou and editor Maryline Monthieux to be part of his crew as filming began in the summer of 2012. Shooting in his hometown with the support of the locals gave Jodorowsky free rein to do what he wanted as he also recalled some of the visual ideas of Federico Fellini for the film. Yet, Jodorowsky also wanted to touch upon ideas of faith and the struggles he faced as a child as it would prove to be a very therapeutic experience for him. Especially as he was surrounded by his own family who get the chance to be in the home where it all began as the shooting was finished later that fall.

The film was completed in time for its premiere at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival that May where it played as part of a double-bill with Pavich’s documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune in the festival’s Director’s Fortnight section. The film was given a rousing reception from audiences and critics at the screening as it proved to be a major hit at the festival. Less than a month later, Jodorowsky premiered the film at his hometown of Tocopilla where it was also well-received as it made its U.S. premiere in February of 2014 at the South by Southwest Film Festival to great acclaim. While the film only got a limited theatrical release in the U.S. that only made more than half-a-million dollars against its $3 million budget. The film was a major hit with critics as well as art house audiences where the film marked as a major comeback for Jodorowsky.

Endless Poetry

Jodorowsky’s newest feature film is a sequel to The Dance of Reality as it focuses on Jodorowsky’s teenage years and his time as a young adult trying to find himself. Retaining the same cast for the film with Adan playing his own father in his 20s while Jodorowsky also appears in the film as himself. Jodorowsky received the services of the famed cinematographer Christopher Doyle, who is known for his work with Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar-Wai, to shoot the film as it was shot in Santiago, Chile and other places in the country while using crowd source funding to get money for the film as he received donations from fans as well as other filmmakers. The film made its premiere at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival in May of that year once again playing at the Director’s Fortnight section where it was well-received from audiences and critics proving that Jodorowsky still has the magic touch.

Despite not being part of mainstream culture or wanting to be in the often capitalist-world that is Hollywood, Alejandro Jodorowsky does remain to be an important figure in the world of cinema. While many of his greater work maybe considered cult films, that cult has gotten bigger as his films have influenced filmmakers, musicians, and artists as diverse as Nicolas Winding Refn, Luc Besson, Ridley Scott, David Lynch, Marilyn Manson, Peter Gabriel, and Kanye West. In attaining that air of mystique and intrigue that often makes cinematic figures so compelling, Alejandro Jodorowsky remains as cinema’s most mystical auteur.

© thevoid99 2016

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Rainbow Thief

Directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky and written by Berta Dominguez D., The Rainbow Thief is the story of a crook who befriends the heir to a fortune in the hopes he can score the fortune. The film is a whimsical tale of friendship told in a stylistic manner as it relates to desires of the richest kind that money can and can‘t buy. Starring Peter O’Toole, Omar Sharif, and Christopher Lee. The Rainbow Thief is an interesting but lackluster film from Alejandro Jodorowsky.

Set in an unnamed European city, the film is about this beggar thief who meets the nephew of an eccentric millionaire as they spend five years living in the sewer awaiting word about the inheritance that this man is to get. It’s a film with a simple plot that explores the idea of survival and expectations of great rewards yet the film’s script by Berta Dominguez D. is very by-the-books in the way it establishes its main characters such as the thief Dima (Omar Sharif), the offbeat heir Meleagre (Peter O’Toole), and the eccentric millionaire Rudolf Van Tannen (Christopher Lee). The last of which is just a plot device where he goes into a five-year coma while relatives bicker over who gets the inheritance while thinking of putting Meleagre into a psychiatric hospital and leave him out of the will. Upon meeting Dima and seek refuge in the sewers, Meleagre decides to live a life without complications yet he treats Dima like a servant. While it’s meant to be a story of friendship, the script often has the two men bickering while Dima goes out and steal to survive while hoping he would get some money from Meleagre’s inheritance.

Alejandro Jodorowsky’s direction is very straightforward which is shocking considering that the filmmaker is known for creating visuals that are confrontational and majestic. With this film, it’s an attempt to maintain some of the whimsical elements he’s known for yet it feels forced and never really does anything to stand out visually. Shot largely on location in Gdansk, Poland where it plays as this European port city, Jodorowsky does take great advantage of the location with its usage of wide and medium shots while he does also create moments in the compositions that are interesting that includes the scenes between Dima and Meleagre. While Jodorowsky tries to maintain some sense of energy and charm into the film, it’s not enough to cover many of the shortcomings of the script as Jodorowsky is just creating something that just feels very ordinary. Overall, Jodorowsky creates a very bland film about a thief and an heir to a fortune trying to await the news of a man’s death for great riches.

Cinematographer Ronnie Taylor does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography as it‘s quite colorful for some of the scenes involving the circus acts as well as some unique interior lighting in the scenes set in the sewers. Editor Mauro Bonnani does nice work with the editing as it‘s largely straightforward to play into some of the whimsical elements in the film. Production designers Didier Naert and Alexandre Trauner, with set decorators Simon Wakefield and Peter Young and art directors Fred Hole and Janusz Sosnowski, do fantastic work with the look of Rudolf‘s home as well as some of the interiors of the sewers and the places around the docks. Costume designers Barbara Kidd and Ewa Krauze do terrific work with the costumes from the lavish clothes of Meleagre as well as the look of the other hobos and people living around the docks. Sound editors Mireille Leroy and Corrine Rozenberg do superb work with the sound as it plays into the sound of the waters flowing through the sewers as well as the whimsy of the circus world. The film’s music by Jean Musy is wonderful for its orchestral-based score as it play to the world of the circus and the sense of hope and whimsy that looms for its key characters.

The casting by Jeremy Zimmerman is pretty good as it features appearances from punk rock legend Ian Dury as a bartender Dima owes money to, screenwriter Berta Dominguez D. as a beggar named Tiger Lily, Joanna Dickens as a woman Dima uses for money in Ambrosia, and Christopher Lee in a fantastic performance as the eccentric Rudolf Von Tannen as this eccentric millionaire who cares more about his dogs and bevy of whores than his family where it’s an appearance that is just too brief where he eventually becomes a plot device. Finally, there’s the excellent performances of Peter O’Toole and Omar Sharif in their respective roles as Meleagre and Dima. Despite the shortcomings of the script, the two do give committed performances that allow them to have fun with Sharif being the more physical in his approach to play a thief while O’Toole camps up the eccentricities of his character where he is often accompanied by a dead dog.

Despite the performances of Peter O’Toole and Omar Sharif as well as some solid technical work, The Rainbow Thief is a very mediocre film from Alejandro Jodorowsky. It’s a film that wants to be a lot of things only to fall very short due in part to its lackluster script and Jodorowsky being constrained to create something that is very straightforward which is something that Jodorowsky isn’t known for. In the end, The Rainbow Thief is just an uninspired film from Alejandro Jodorowsky.

Alejandro Jodorowsky Films: La Cravate - Teatro sin fin - Fando y Lis - El Topo - The Holy Mountain - Tusk (1980 film) - Santa Sangre - The Dance of Reality - Endless Poetry - Psychomagic: a Healing Art

Related: Jodorowsky's Dune - The Auteurs #59: Alejandro Jodorowsky

© thevoid99 2016